We often view aggression with a negative lens associated with violence and uncontrolled anger. However, aggression is an attempt to control or act upon ourselves and the environment (or others) and when channelled constructively is a sign of healthful behaviour.
Two major forms of aggression
- Nondestructive aggression which appears to be assertive and nonhostile, usually leading to mastery of self and the environment. We need nondestructive aggression to propel us towards mastery of skills, achieving our goals, setting boundaries to protect ourselves and our rights.
- Hostile destructiveness which is seen in angry, nasty and hurtful behaviours that causes problems for self and others. This form of aggression appears to be associated with experiences of excessive distress and pain. The excessive distress changes the inherently healthful tendency to assert the self and change the environment into wanting to do something to eliminate what is causing the distress and pain. This sense of hostility can be turned inward possibly leading to self-harming behaviours or outwards into harm towards others.
What can I do?
#1: Reduce or prevent the impact of experiencing excessive unpleasure
- Experiences of unpleasure is unavoidable i.e. normal disappointments or restrictions on gratification of wishes
- Parents can pay attention to pick up expressions from their child that signals the experience of excessive unpleasure as the threshold of pain tolerance differs from child to child
#2: Maintain a good relationship with your child
- The positive emotional relationship with parents enhances the child’s ability to modulate the hostility generated within them by helping the child maintain a positive self- and worldview and bouncing back from the pain experience.
Parens, H. (1987). Aggression in Our Children. Aronson.